I feel a little stunned. Something really amazing happened the other weekend and I’m still slowly digesting it. I know I was part of something very special and I’m hoping that blogging about it will help me to really define exactly what occurred.
The 261 Club Austria leader asked me to recommend a good race in England for their annual trip abroad. My 261 Club Wray were planning to go to Liverpool to run the Women’s Running magazine 10k; we went last year, it was so friendly and fun. I knew this race would be the ideal one for them as like us, they have a wide range of abilities in their club and the WR race series offers a 5k option too. Rather than just meeting them there we decided to host their club for the weekend.
So, the women of Wray and the surrounding hillsides opened their houses and as it turns out, opened their hearts. The welcome was warm to say the least. It was entertaining working out who should stay with who as our Austrian visitors aren’t ‘pet mad’ like us. Only one house didn’t have any animals so we sent the most allergic there and stocked up on antihistamines for the rest!
After an evening meal with their host families we met the following morning to run on a local trail. We played ‘name games’ to get to know each other and literally stopped traffic when we all crossed the road.
The weekend seemed to feature a lot of food! Cakes are our thing and we had to show off master baker Sarah’s talent. We took over the village pub ‘The George and Dragon’ on Saturday night; they did us proud with a super meal too. Our guests even saw the sights of Lancaster without it raining!
On the Sunday we took a team coach to Liverpool for the highlight of the trip; the Women’s Running 5 and 10k race series. Superbly organised and with a fantastic atmosphere it was the perfect choice. There wasn’t even a queue for the portaloos! The WR team dealt with our last minute race entries and changes of race distances with a welcoming smile and the starting gun went off bang on time.
It was wonderful to see running unite women from both clubs. We were delighted that Fiona who has just started up 261 Club Sandbach was able to join us too. We had women who had never run a race before, some who were going for PB times and others who had come to run to simply enjoy it and support the rest. Many from Wray chose to ‘run with an Austrian’ and watching them cross the finish line hand in hand was very moving.
So many different running journeys and life experiences joining together. This is exactly what 261Fearless clubs are about. The club network is in its infancy but the power that it has became truly evident this weekend. 261, three little numbers, smashing down barriers, connecting women who would never otherwise meet and enriching the lives of all who are part of it.
After the race we celebrated with a champagne picnic in the park, in glorious sunshine.
Our journey back to Wray was followed by a barbecue with all of our families. Our amazing Becky hosted around 80 of us and we watched the sun go down over Ingleborough as we feasted, laughed and swapped contact details. We willingly accepted the offer of an exchange visit to Austria!
A truly amazing weekend. So many times over the weekend I felt the hairs literally stand up on my arms. So many powerful moments. I feel exhausted, deflated yet elated now our visitors have left. I’ve witnessed the power of 261Fearless clubs and realise that my decision to be part of bringing this club network to the UK is absolutely the right one. If you’d like to find out more then visit the 261Fearless website or Facebook page. If you’re interested in setting up your own club then get in touch with me jmcgrattan@261Fearless.org.
Be a part of it.
Photo credits: Thanks to Horst von Bohlen photography for the stunning pictures